I’ve been home from Texas for three days now and it’s always a weird transition back into normal life. In Texas, you wake up every morning with a purpose and it’s really hard to come home and wake up without that same purpose. Additionally, it is hard to come back to a city where a great majority of the individuals have no idea of the atrocities occurring at the border. While this disheartens me, it also fuels me. It fuels me to spread awareness about this crisis and educate people about the true events occurring at the border, those that are commonly inaccurately portrayed by current media.
I learned more than I could have ever hoped for on this trip to Texas. Not only did I improve upon field techniques and forensic archeological skills, I also gained experience conducting lab analyses. As this was the first trip I have been involved where skeletal analyses took place, I learned so much regarding each of the aspects I took part in, as well as the intricacies and variation behind each of the traits we looked at. During the Human Osteology course offered at UIndy, I learned about some of these traits and how to correctly analyze them, so it was amazing to apply this education in a new context.
I also learned more about the sociopolitics surrounding this crisis in a town that is situated much closer to the border than Falfurrias is. Because we don’t have the same five year long relationship with Rio Grande City as we do with Falfurrias, I believe we will continue to learn more about the sociopolitics surrounding this crisis as our relationship with this city grows and progresses. I look forward to continuing to learn about the intricacies of this humanitarian crisis, and seeing how location and proximity to the border effects community views. I believe that understanding these aspects of the humanitarian crisis can inform policies, procedures, and viewpoints that accurately address and reflect the mass disaster occurring. Only with this understanding can true change take place.
I always miss the people I have met down in Texas. The new friends I made this field season, as well as friends made last January; Sister Pam, Dr. Spradley, Dr. Gocha, JP… all of these incredible individuals that work so hard for this humanitarian effort. But the aspect of Texas I always miss the most is the purpose, knowing that what I am doing is helping return individuals to their loved ones. Even though I don’t wake up with the same purpose as I do in Texas, I now wake up with a different purpose – spreading awareness, education, and advocacy.
I think my learning style has always been hands-on. I wonder now if it is because I compensated for my vision problems when I was a child by using my hands or if that is just naturally how I learn. Regardless of the reason, I am so thankful for the opportunities the University of Indianapolis offers us, to use the knowledge we learn in our classes and implement that knowledge in a real world situation. It is my goal to become a forensic anthropologist. I know this will be a tough journey, but I am determined to get there. I feel so thankful to have two board certified forensic anthropologists to learn from at UIndy. It is interesting to see how both Dr. Nawrocki and Dr. Latham do things, and how while they both practice forensic anthropology, each professor does certain things slightly differently because that way works best for them. I really appreciate being able to observe both of their styles, enabling me to gain multiple perspectives of the field.
This semester I took Human Osteology with Dr. Nawrocki, and then I was able to apply the knowledge I gained in his class during our lab days in Texas. While applying this knowledge, I was also able to observe how Dr. Latham conducts skeletal analyses. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to apply my knowledge while observing Dr. Latham because I learned so much in the process. We each develop methods for doing things that work best for us. It is often the case that we model our own work after our mentors. I appreciate being able observe both Dr. Nawrocki and Dr. Latham as they work because they each had different mentors in their time as students learning the field of forensic anthropology. It allows me to develop my own methods modeled after each of theirs, as I find my way as a student studying to become a forensic anthropologist.
I am so thankful to have had this amazing opportunity to test my knowledge and to further gain knowledge on how to conduct skeletal analyses. It is one thing to learn in a classroom, but it is a completely different thing to apply what you learned in the classroom to a real life situation. My time doing lab work in Texas has enabled me to see the areas where I need to further study but also the areas where I feel most comfortable. It has helped me gain a better understanding of the field of forensic anthropology and it has helped me understand that developing your own style within this field is perfectly acceptable. I am so glad the University of Indianapolis offers experiences such as these because I feel it was incredibly beneficial to me on so many levels.
Throughout our time here in Texas, we have discussed lessons that we have learned, areas where we have done well, and areas where we can improve at the end of each night. During the lab analysis portion of this season, a lot of these lessons reflected on the education that we have received at the University of Indianapolis. Before our time in the lab at Texas State University, I hadn’t fully realized just how much I have learned during my graduate career. And being able to apply that learning to such an important cause honestly felt amazing.
With this being my second time participating in this work in Texas, I have not only been able to apply my education from UIndy but also my experiences from the previous trip in January. In January, however, we were only in the field and did not do any of the analyses in the lab. Therefore, my fellow students and I really had to draw from our education and experience from casework in Indiana to problem solve. And I think we did a fine job. We knew we had a lot to accomplish in our short time in the lab at Texas State and we were determined to exceed expectations. This required a lot of critical thinking and problem solving but I believe that the education and experience that we have all received at the University of Indianapolis really helped us in this regard.
It was a great experience being able to be a little more independent in these analyses, which of course also came with more responsibility. None of us shied away from this, however. We each worked together to figure out the best way to complete each task and by the third day, we had really found our groove. I really believe that in addition to everything we have learned under the guidance of Dr. Latham and Dr. Nawrocki at the University of Indianapolis, our ability to work so well together as a team to problem solve helped us to accomplish everything that we did during this Texas season. And being able to use our skills to contribute as much as we can to a real-world crisis situation that needs all the help it can get really feeds the fire to continue to work hard and stay involved as much as possible.